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Sonogram Nurse: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 15, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to performs sonograms. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Sonogram nurses operate transducer equipment to take sonograms of patient's bodies in order to make diagnoses. Completion of a certificate or degree program is required for this type of position, and both associate's and bachelor's programs are available for those seeking a degree. A background in healthcare could be important for securing employment as a sonographer.

Essential Information

The job title of 'sonogram nurse' is not a typical one. Licensed nurses can gain training in ultrasound and sonography by pursuing an additional certificate or degree program in diagnostic medical sonography; however, holding a nursing degree and licensure is not a prerequisite for these programs and is not a requirement for becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer. Some prior healthcare experience does tend to be valuable for aspiring sonographers, though. Nurses who complete a diagnostic medical sonography program might continue their nursing practice, or they may transition into a sonographer role.

Healthcare practitioners who perform sonograms use a transducer to transmit high frequency sound (ultrasound) waves into a patient's body. The transducer takes an image of the body part using reflected echoes, and the sonographer sends the image to the physician for diagnosis of disease and pregnancy health. Sonographers can find employment in hospitals, doctor's offices and laboratories.

Required Education Certificate or degree program
Other Requirements Strong communication skills, expertise with sonogram equipment and in-depth knowledge of anatomy and physiology
Certification and Licensure Certification is recommended for sonographers; licensure is required for sonographers in some states
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 12% for all registered nurses; 19% for all diagnostic medical sonographers
Median Salary (2018)* $71,730 for all registered nurses; $72,510 for all diagnostic medical sonographers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Sonogram Job Duties

The duties of a healthcare practitioner who performs sonograms include patient care, use of high-tech equipment and follow-up record keeping. It is their responsibility to take the patient's relevant medical history and explain the procedure fully to the patient. This takes an understanding of the entire process as well as the ability to communicate to the patient in a kind and caring manner.

The sonographer must have expertise with the transducer equipment used to take the sonogram. These machines send a beam of upper-frequency sound waves to the area of the body to be imaged. Sonographers must have an excellent understanding of anatomy and physiology to locate the correct body part to be imaged. They carefully manipulate the patient's body to make sure the best image is taken.

Once the procedure is completed, sonographers are responsible for all images and follow-up administrative tasks. They send the image to a physician for diagnosis. Also, they are usually responsible for the maintenance and up-keep of the sonogram equipment. In some cases, they can manage an imaging department, such as keeping department schedules and performing administrative duties.

Requirements for Nurses Who Want to Become Sonographers

There are several paths open to nurses who want to study sonography. The programs available may take anywhere from 1-4 years to complete. All require some background in anatomy and mathematics.

A certificate program is offered by some hospitals, medical institutes and postsecondary learning institutions. These programs can vary in length from 1-2 years. Most programs include lectures, on-campus experience with sonographic equipment and off-campus clinical studies. Some programs require prior experience in a healthcare facility; a licensed nurse interested in this type of program would easily fulfill this requirement.

An associate's degree program is offered by many university hospitals and community colleges. This is a 2-year program that usually requires a background in anatomy, physics and college level math. The curriculum generally includes lectures and clinical experience.

Finally, a bachelor's degree program is offered by some 4-year universities. These programs have more extensive prerequisites, including courses in anatomy, physiology, physics and math, as well as general education subjects like English and social sciences. Like associate's degree programs, bachelor's degree programs in diagnostic medical sonography combine classroom discussion with hands-on clinical work and practice on ultrasound equipment.

Certification and Licensure

Although certification isn't mandatory for diagnostic medical sonographers, it's strongly recommended; some insurance companies won't pay for procedures unless certified sonographers perform them, so employers prefer to hire professionals with certification. After graduating from an accredited program, new sonographers can earn certification by passing an exam. Some states require that sonographers be licensed. Eligibility requirements for licensure vary by state, but certification is a common requirement.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job openings for registered nurses and diagnostic medical sonographers will grow much faster than the national average through 2028. In May 2018, the BLS reported that registered nurse in the 90th percentile or higher earned $106,530 or more per year, while diagnostic medical sonographers in the 90th percentile or higher earned $100,480.

Aspiring sonogram nurses have several options to prepare for this career. Many enter the field after they have already practiced as nurses, in which case they would need special training in using transducer equipment in order to qualify for becoming a sonographer. Those who are not already nurses may have to pursue additional education in the medical field as well as receiving training in sonography equipment. These nurses may need to obtain certification or licensure in sonography

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